Higgins arrives in London for four-day State visit

President and his wife driven away from Heathrow in a maroon coloured Bentley flying an Irish tricolour

 The President Micheal D Higgins and his wife Sabina departing for their State visit to Britain at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel today. Photograph:  Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The President Micheal D Higgins and his wife Sabina departing for their State visit to Britain at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 22:38

President Michael D Higgins has arrived in London for the first ever State visit to Britain by an Irish president.

Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina touched down at Heathrow Airport this evening shortly after 5pm, where members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force were awaiting their arrival on the airport apron.

Mr and Mrs Higgins, who were accompanied by the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and his wife Carol Hanney, were greeted at the foot of the plane’s steps by Ireland’s Ambassador to Britain Daniel Mulhall, and his wife Greta.

British monarchy tweets as Gaeilge

They then proceeded down a red carpet lined by the RAF men and on into the airport’s Royal Suite.

Inside, the Irish party was introduced to The Viscount Hood, who was representing Queen Elizabeth II, and Sir David Brewer, the Queen’s lord lieutenant of Greater London.

They were also introduced to Nicholas Jarrold, the special representative of the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, the commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Heathrow Airport duty manager Lee Ribolla.

The presidential delegation included secretary general to the President Adrian O’Neill, secretary general to the Government Martin Fraser, Department of Foreign Affairs secretary general David Cooney, the President’s chief of protocol Orla O’Hanrahan, adviser Liam Herrick and Aide de Camp Col Brendan McAndrew.

At 5.20pm, Mr and Mrs Higgins were driven away from Heathrow in a maroon coloured Bentley, one of two given to the Queen to mark her golden jubilee in 2003, with a police escort. The car was flying an Irish tricolour.

The British monarchy’s official twitter account (@Britishmonarchy)announced the President’s arrival with a tweet as Gaeilge.

“Tá Londain bainte amach ag Uachtarán na hÉireann agus ag Bean Uí Uiginn, agus chuir ionadaí na Banríona fáilte rompu #Fáilte #CuairtStáit,” it announced at 5.45pm.

It wasn’t the first time the British monarchy’s account tweeted in Irish having previously announced details of Mr Higgins’s visit on March 25th (with Sonraí na Cuairte Stáit deimhnithe ag Pálás Buckingham, chéad chuairt ar an Ríocht Aontaithe ag Uachtarán ar Éirinn).

Today’s tweet was positively received and was retweeted 400 times and marked as favourite 195 times within a short time. It also triggered an interesting stream of comments both from followers of @Britishmonarchy and those with an interest in Irish.

Mr and Mrs Higgins will spend the first night of the visit in The Doyle Kensington Hotel before travelling to Windsor Castle tomorrow morning, where they will be formally greeted by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The four will travel together by horse-drawn carriage for a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle.

Prior to departing for Windsor, Mr and Mrs Higgins will meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at the Irish Embassy at Grosvenor Place.

Later in the day, Mr and Mrs Higgins will visit Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster, where the President will make an address, before returning to Windsor for a meeting with Labour leader Ed Miliband and a state banquet.

Mr Higgins will on Wednesday visit University College Hospital London, the Royal Society and 10 Downing Street, to meet prime minister David Cameron.

Other engagements include a visit to the Park House Stables in Newbury, a tour of Coventry Cathedral, a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Taoisesch Enda Kenny will be present for some of the events tomorrow. He returns to Ireland on Wednesday for scheduled business but travels to Britain for the remainder of the state visit on Thursday.